The Surprising Side of Shame
Dealing with your shaming voices from the past will lead to happier, healthier relationships in the present. Researchers have shown a link between shame and negative relationship behaviors such as anger, irritability, indirect hostility, resentment, and a tendency to blame your partner for various things. Dealing with your shame won’t just set you free to love yourself—you can freely and fully love others as well.1
Exercise: Silencing the Voices
Take out your journal and try to recall all the inner dialogue that ran through your mind as you were creating the parts of your Beauty Blueprint. For each bit of inner dialogue, answer this question: What was the true intent behind the statement? Here’s a story to help you get the gist of what I want you to do. . . .
I was working with a client shortly after her husband left her. After completing her Beauty Blueprint, we went shopping to create a new look to match her new life. After trying on several flattering outfits, however, she looked dejected and stared at the dressing-room floor.
“I have to tell you something,” she said. I braced myself because, by now, I’ve learned that clients who are making bold changes also confront even bigger fears. “I think my stomach looks terrible in all these clothes.”
“What?” I gasped. “You look incredible! You have a great body. Where is this coming from? What is the voice in your head saying exactly?”
“It’s my ex’s voice,” she confessed. “He told me that I was getting fat, and he didn’t want to have sex with me anymore.”
“What was his genuine intention behind that statement?” I asked.
“To hurt me, I guess.”
“So, it wasn’t true, right? He only said it to upset you. Do you see the difference?”
She nodded, and relief washed over her face. The inner voice that had damaged her so deeply wasn’t true, and now she saw it for what is was: a lie.
She stood up straighter and smiled, and I knew she was on her way to becoming a free woman.
Now it’s your turn to do this exercise so that you can finally be free of any shaming voices that hold you back. And even if the original intention was positive—as a way to protect you, for instance—the result may still be the same. This exercise enables you to observe this dialogue for what it truly is and no longer allow it to control you.
Learning to Forgive
Once you start identifying and disarming your shaming voices, you need to go one step further. If you’ve been hurt or have suffered, you need to forgive the people who planted those voices in your mind. Freedom comes with forgiveness. However, this doesn’t require you to speak to certain individuals or open the door to old relationships. Forgiveness is simply a decision you make to let go of the past. This is for you, not anyone else.
Exercise: Write Your Letter
Any lingering negative feelings from the past are often signs that you need to forgive someone or something. If you’re always replaying hurtful words or painful situations in your mind, you need to identify someone or something to forgive.
You can do so by writing a letter that will never actually be mailed. (You can write as many as you need to!) So grab a pen and paper, and pour your heart out. Tell the person exactly what he or she did and how it hurt you. Was it a hurtful word, deed, or a cruel tone that you remember most? Don’t try to justify or minimize it. How did that person’s words or actions impact you then, and how do they impact you now?
One of the letters I wrote went something like this:
I forgive you for being so cruel and degrading in your words, and hateful in your tone. I felt abused and unloved, and sometimes I still hear those words in my head today. But I am ready to be free.
Next, write down your decision to forgive and let go. For example: “I release the pain I once felt, I release you, and I send you a blessing of love and light.” It’s not enough to simply forgive. I believe you must also make an offering of love. Forgiveness releases, but love heals.
Now you’re going to burn your letter. (Some people prefer to tie their letters to balloons and release them into the sky.) The reason you don’t mail your letter is because going back to the offender can sometimes stir up more chaos and hurt. Remember, forgiveness doesn’t require a confrontation or conversation; you’re not condoning what happened. Forgiveness is something that happens inside you.
So, over the stove, on the backyard grill, or in your fireplace . . . just let it burn. As the smoke rises, ask that this person be blessed and find peace. Visualize your forgiveness extending into the sky and beyond. What is forgiven is finished. Those voices, once dealt with and forgiven, can no longer hurt you or hold you back.
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